God wants all of creation to exist together in perfect harmony like it was at the beginning. It is at the mercy of Allah that we are saved. The question should not be why does Allah allow suffering, but how much Allah protects us and saves us all the time despite our violations and negligence. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the sufferings given to us. Allah says:
مَّا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّهِ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِن نَّفْسِكَ وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولًا وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ شَهِيدًا
“What(ever) befalls you of (the) good (is) from Allah, and whatever befalls you of (the) evil (is) from yourself. And for the people (as) a Messenger and Allah is sufficient (as) a Witness.” (Surah An-Nisa 4:79)
God often uses suffering to train and discipline us to grow us into maturity in our faith. We all feel it: the pain of this world, the darkness trying to cloud out the light. You don’t have to go very far to feel overwhelmed by how devastating life can be. Sometimes suffering and disaster are used not as a test, but as a warning to sinners or a punishment for transgressors. Allah says:
لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“Certainly, (has) come to you a Messenger from yourselves. Grievous to him (is) what you “suffer, (he is) concerned over you, to the believers (he is) kind (and) merciful.” (Surah At-Taubah 9:128)
The Creator alone knows best what is beneficial for His creation and what is not. The reason why God would allow suffering is as a means to test people. Pain and suffering cause us to run to God with our needs. When we realize we are not in control and that our lives are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, we cling to our God in heaven, who alone is our rock and sure foundation. Suffering drives us to lean on God as nothing else can, and it allows us to see that God is enough.
Here are some reasons why God Allows Suffering:
- Suffering awaken the lost to their need for God
- Suffering reminds us that the world is broken
- Suffering is used to train us in righteousness
- Suffering does justice in response to our sin
- Suffering reminds us of the impact of our sin
- Suffering makes the bliss of heaven sweeter
- Suffering is meaning in the community
- Suffering means a powerful God exists
- Suffering believers testament of faith
- Suffering hatred of certain people
- Suffering because of the jealousy
- Suffering groans for redemption
- Suffering objects away from evil
- Suffering a response of freedom
- Suffering a picture in this world
- Suffering from the wrong choices
- Suffering is real and very personal
- Suffering is putting our trust in God
- Suffering is a matter of perspective
- Suffering keeps us dependent on God
- Suffering is the result of mankind’s sin
- Suffering gives a picture to near to God
- God has reasons for allowing suffering
- God allows suffering for a close relation
- God suffers people to turn Him in repentance
- God allows people to suffer so they will turn to Him
Suffering and pain cause us to long for our heavenly home and live more fully for eternity. Suffering shocks us into remembering that we are temporary residents and foreigners on this earth and this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. When this happens, we redirect our lives with more eternal purpose than before, and we focus more on pleasing God. Allah says:
وَلَا تَهِنُوا فِي ابْتِغَاءِ الْقَوْمِ إِن تَكُونُوا تَأْلَمُونَ فَإِنَّهُمْ يَأْلَمُونَ كَمَا تَأْلَمُونَ وَتَرْجُونَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَرْجُونَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا
“And (do) not be weak in pursuit (of) the people. If you are suffering, then indeed, they are (also) suffering like what you are suffering, while you (have) hope from Allah what not they hope. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Surah an-Nisa 4:104)
Suffering allows us to identify with and draw near to Islam through suffering as nothing else can. Rejoice when you participate in the sufferings, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. God is rich in mercy and He provided a way for guilty sinners to be forgiven. Allah says
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَاإِلَىٰ أُمَمٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بِالْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَضَرَّعُونَ
“And certainly, We sent (Messengers) to nations before you, then We seized them with adversity and hardship so that they may humble themselves.” (Surah Al-An`am 6:42)
Hardships and tragedies are a prerequisite to prosperity and happiness and are their cause. Bliss and harmony hide behind hardship, just as sometimes hardship is hidden behind happiness. Hardship and pain train the individual and awaken society, they awaken those who are sleeping in ignorance and motivate them.
Take the steps that will help us to overcome these challenges:
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones: Suffering brings faithful believers into a deeper understanding and relationship with Allah. Try to visualize this world in this light.
- Turn your anxiety and fears into offer Dua: The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusion. Believers face sufferings with dua, prayers, repentance, and good deeds.
- Don’t give up on your efforts: The rationality of the Islamic faith is not undermined by the existence of evil and suffering. One does not punish or reward someone for a test that they never took.
- As they say, let go and let God: Suffering allows us to see that we have something worth far more than anything this earth can afford. The non-believers face the sufferings with doubts and confusion.
- Repent on the mistakes you have made: It is never too late for a true Muslim to repent to Allah, and to shed tears. When we see unrighteousness and cruelty, we can be champions for righteousness and compassion.
- Change your expectations: God knows the outcome of the test beforehand, this is to serve as a testament about how strong one’s faith is in the Day of Judgement.
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ
“The One Who created death and life that He may test you, which of you (is) best (in) deed. And He (is) the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” (Surah Al-Mulk 67:2)
The world is for tests, and with these tests, we will grow as people and grow closer to Him. He has also promised that there will be ease after every hardship. Look forward to that, know that the situation you are in won’t be forever, that you will get through it and that it will feel amazing when you do.
Allah Almighty says in The Holy Quran:
- “Be not sad, surely Allah is with us.” (Quran 9:40)
- “So be patient, with good patience…” (Quran 70:5)
- “Verily, with hardship, there is a relief.” (Quran 94:6)
- “So do not become weak, nor be sad…” (Quran 3:139)
- “…Bear with patience whatever befalls you….” (Quran 31:17)
- “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Quran 13:28)
- “O you who believe! Seek help in patience and the prayer…” (Quran 2:153)
- “We will surely test you through some fear, hunger, and shortage of money, lives, and crops, so give the news to the patient ones.” (Quran 2:155)
- “And whatever disaster strikes you is but a consequence of what your own hands have earned. Still, He pardons quite a lot.” (Quran 42:30)
- “Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as a trial, then to Us, you will all be returned.” (Quran 21:35)
- “O people, you are the ones who need God, while God, He is Rich, Praiseworthy.” (Quran 35:15)
The Creator alone knows best what is beneficial for His creation and what is not. The reason why God would allow suffering is as a means to test people. Finally, the challenge of suffering is in part a challenge of perspective, and it’s important to remember that our current perspective is not the full perspective. Allah says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا وَرَضُوا بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّوا بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ
“Those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, but are pleased and satisfied with the life of the present, and those who heed not Our Signs.” (Surah Yunus 10:7)
Suffering from the wrong choices, even though God uses the resulting suffering for good. God allows people to suffer so they will turn to Him in repentance and not perish for eternity. Suffering brings faithful believers into a deeper understanding and relationship with Him. May Allah keep us on the right path, Amen.